Sergeant Edmond D. Anderson, called Ed by his friends, had never been as frightened in his short twenty-two years of life. He was rushing toward the Confederate lines and bullets were flying around like angry bees. Anderson was a big man, a little over six feet and weighed just over two hundred pounds. He wore his brown hair long, but his beard was always neatly trimmed. His eyes were brown and as keen as an eagle’s.
“Forward men! Damn all of you, I said forward!” Screamed a young captain running near Ed, a second later his head exploded in a gory mist of blood and brains. The sword held high in his right hand fell to the ground, but landed without notice, as the battlefield turned into a pure living hell. The noise of the battle, which had been loud before, now grew so thunderous thoughts became difficult.
Men screamed in pain and surprise as mini-balls or shrapnel from cannon balls exploding over-head struck them, their white cotton balls raining injury and death. He saw a man beside him grasp his face with his hands, a large piece of shrapnel protruding, and then fall to the ground thrashing wildly. Men were falling all around as the fierceness of the battle grew to the point he thought he might lose his mind.
Suddenly, the firing ceased, as if turned off by the wave of God’s almighty hand, and the field of death grew unnaturally still, as if out of respect for the dead and dying. The silence only lasted a few seconds, when it was interrupted by a thousand loud Rebel yells. From the trees, men dressed in gray or butternut uniforms burst forth, the sun reflecting from the long bayonets on their rifles. Gun shots were heard and once again agonized screams of the injured filled the morning air.
Unexpectedly knocked back hard by the impact of a bullet striking him, Ed was surprised to find himself looking at the green grasses in front of his eyes. Strange, but dew is still on the grass, even with a battle going on. He attempted to stand, only to discover his body wouldn’t obey his mind. If this is death, it ain’t so bad, he thought a second before he entered the black world of unconsciousness.
Ed’s head hurt, it throbbed unmercifully and even though his eyes were closed he knew he had survived, because a dead man would feel no pain. Cautiously he opened his left eye and looked around. Near him and scattered for yards were wounded soldiers. Most wore Union blue like him, but a few gray and chestnut uniforms were seen, as if to balance out the colors. His head ached, his vision was blurred and he had a hard time keeping his thoughts organized.
Touching his head, he felt the thick outline of a cotton bandage and knew he’d been struck in the head. Must have just grazed my noggin or I’d be dead. Opening his right eye, he took the whole scene in. The wounded were still there, only now he discovered the scent of wounds and death. It had the foul odor of human waste, which made him feel uneasy and nauseated.
“I see you survived. Not many survive a head wound.” An unknown voice said from behind him.
Turning his head, he saw a rail thin tall corporal with red hair and glasses smiling at him. Giving a slight moan, Ed replied, “Yep, lucky as hell, I guess.”
The corporal moved to his side, kneeled and said, “My name is Abraham, just like the Presidents, only most folks call me Too-Tall. Nope, your survival was not luck. It was the hand of God, like so many other things that happen in this war. Don’t ya see?”
“Well, then I’ll have to thank him when I see him.”
“Do not joke of something like this, for God is listening.”
Growing irritated by the thin Bible-thumper lecturing him, Ed replied heatedly, “Ain’t you got someplace to go or something to do?”
“I do the work of the Lord and while I have other duties here on earth, they are small compared to God’s work.”
“Look, Abraham, go bother someone else. I got a headache and don’t feel up to talking right now,” Ed replied, head thumping remorselessly.
Standing, the tall man replied, “I shall return and perhaps we can pray together.”
Laying back on his blanket, Ed replied, “That might be nice,” but thought, just leave my butt alone, I hurt and don’t need this right now.
When the man left Ed went back to sleep, awakening only much later in the day, as bright red, yellow and orange filled the western sky. Next to him, a middle-aged man who’d been sleeping earlier in the day, gave him a weak smile and asked, “Where are ya hit, ‘ sides yer head?”
“That’s it, only my head.”
“If it ain’t serious they’ll make ya work some, ya know? Haul water, chop wood, or some other such nonsense.”
“I figured as much. Work hurts no man and maybe it’ll keep me from being bored,” Ed said, as he thought, great, that’s all I need.
Giving the man a closer look, Ed saw he was of average size and build, but his eyes were weak. He squinted as if he’d once worn glasses but lost them in the battle. He wore his black hair long, though it was streaked with white, and his beard was of the same color. What made him different from other men near was the fact his blanket was flat below both knees. Giving the man a shy grin, he said, “Where were you hit, besides your legs?”
Lowering his brown eyes, the man said flatly, “Just in both legs. I took two mini-balls a week ago and when I come around, well, I was a mite shorter than when I started this war. My name is Moses Wright and I was once a farmer.”
Giving a weak grin, Ed replied, “I’m Edmond Anderson, but my friends call me Ed. I’m . . . um . . . sorry about your legs.”
Wright gave a mighty laugh and said, “Hell, I’m lucky to be here son. Most of the men in my unit were killed, but I survived. Don’t ya see?”
“Which unit were you with?”
“I was on Fredrick Steele’s personal staff. I got hit delivering dispatches.”
“What will you do now?”
“If I heal, I’ll go back home. Me and the misses will sale the farm and with my savings we should do all right. If I die, I won’t worry about it. “
“Be hard times, you know.”
The man grinned and said as he smoothed out the blanket where his legs should have been, “I’ve never known anything but hard times, so it’ll be nothing new to me.” He paused for a second as if in deep thought and then continued, “What’s your unit?”
“The 2nd Iowa Cavalry, under Ben Grierson, but we were not mounted the day I was hit. Seems our scouts caught some Rebels sneaking up on our bivouac and Grierson decided to catch ‘ em unaware.”
Wright didn’t speak for a few minutes, but finally he said, “Most of your unit was wiped out, or so I heard. Now, rumor’s fly so don’t believe a damned thing ‘ til you get out of here and can really find out.”
Ed closed his eyes and wondered if all of his friends were now dead or maimed. There was little he could do about it, but in war men grow close. Often they are closer than lovers, each knowing more about each other than a man and wife could ever know. Moss and Jeff, I hope you both yet live.
The night passed quickly and the next morning dawn brought a serious threat of rain from the west. Dark black clouds gathered as if preparing for an assault and near noon the rain started. Flagging down Too-Tall, Ed asked, “Do you have any shelter for the wounded?”
Too-Tall laughed, pulled his dirty cap off, scratched his head, and then said, “Nope, not a blame thing. If we did, why would you be out in the open like this to start with?”
“Well, I ain’t going to sit here and have my ass washed away by a damned rainstorm. I’m leaving and reporting back to my unit.”
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